Navy veteran scores a ton

Published on LEUT Steve Cropper (author), LEUT Anthony Martin (photographer)

Location(s): Gladesville, NSW

Topic(s): Naval Heritage and History

100-year-old Tom Upton (front and centre) with his grandson Shaun and granddaughter Melissa, celebrating his birthday with Warrant Officer Gary Fuss, Petty Officer Tara Fischer, Commander Jace Hutchison and Chief Petty Officer Martin Sammut. (photo: LEUT Anthony Martin)
100-year-old Tom Upton (front and centre) with his grandson Shaun and granddaughter Melissa, celebrating his birthday with Warrant Officer Gary Fuss, Petty Officer Tara Fischer, Commander Jace Hutchison and Chief Petty Officer Martin Sammut.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the start of World War II and is also the year Harold (Tom) Upton turned 100 years old.

The Second World War Navy veteran celebrated his century surrounded by family and some new friends from today’s Navy.

Three serving members posted to HMAS Adelaide (III) - Executive Officer, Commander Jace Hutchison, Chief Petty Officer Martin Sammut and Petty Officer Tara Fischer - joined Tom for the occasion, along with his grandson Shaun Upton, granddaughter Melissa Bell and friends, at the Glades Bay Gardens aged care home at Gladesville in Sydney’s north.

The Adelaide members presented Tom with a birthday cake, an HMAS Adelaide cap, a ship’s challenger coin and some other Navy memorabilia.

Commander Hutchison said meeting Tom was significant for him, because Tom is a living example of the size and history of the Navy.

“When you join the Navy, you inherit another family and celebrating Tom’s 100th birthday reminds me of everyone I have gotten to know in my Navy family over my 24 years in the service,” he said.

Also on hand to celebrate Tom’s century was Warrant Officer Gary Fuss from HMAS Albatross, who presented the veteran with some Albatross souvenirs, a copy of his service record and a letter from Albatross’s Commanding Officer Captain Fiona Sneath - congratulating Tom on his birthday.

“I was especially interested to meet someone who could talk about life aboard Albatross, when it was a seaplane carrier, from first-hand experience,” Warrant Officer Fuss said.

Tom’s service record is extensive and includes sea service in HMA Ships Canberra (I), Albatross, Hobart (I), Swan (II), Australia (II) and Adelaide (I).

Cricket-loving Tom, who joined the Navy in 1936, recalls his naval career very fondly and particularly remembers his first action in World War II aboard Albatross, engaged in escort duty in the Mediterranean Sea.

He retired from the Navy as a Chief Petty Officer before a long career in the Naval Dockyard Police until 1972.

Tom’s grandchildren said they were moved to see their Pop looking so happy in the company of Navy people, and that the visit was an ideal way to celebrate a remarkable naval career and a very long life.

A few of the Navy visitors were impressed by Tom’s liveliness, saying they hoped to be as fit and healthy if they ever scored a ton.

Old Tom just shrugged saying, “Navy life will do that for you, and really, I am still in the puss!”